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Red Wolves: A Trip into Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

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A gravel country road has taken Wolfwatcher advisory board members Gail McDiarmid and Marilyn McGee to one of North Carolina’s most unique wetland habitats, The Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Lured in by the soft, dangling Spanish moss, the two discover bogs, marshes, hardwood and cedar swamps.   And it was also here that these southern ladies first heard the original song of the south.

Synonymous to the Carolinas, one often associates sweet tea and grits and songwriter James Taylor to this region. But to these curiosity seekers this part of the south meant learning more about the elusive and endangered red wolf.  Who knew such a treasure lived in this coastal plain?

Kim Wheeler, now Executive Director of the Red Wolf Coalition and former outreach coordinator Diane Hendry took Marilyn and Gail into the Sandy Ridge enclosure a few years ago to observe the shy red wolf in captivity.   After hours of discussion, both sisters realized that they were seeing the Southeast’s least known stars.  Even though they have lived in the nearby area their entire lives, neither knew the red wolf existed or the challenges facing them. The more they found out the more they wanted to know so they began to seek out information all species of wolves.

After many trips to Yellowstone National Park to learn about the gray wolf and to Alligator River to observe the red wolf, both ladies are dedicating much of their free time to educate the public about North Carolina’s top predator.

When working with students of “all ages”, Gail and Marilyn realize the importance of capturing their audience.  Whether the presentation is at a campground, within the walls of the public library, or in a local elementary school, both women seek out an interesting method for grabbing attention. 

Several times, they outfitted themselves as characters from the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. This story allows them to address the fears and misconceptions about the wolf.  On another occasion, they dressed as detectives with spy glass in hand and lead a scavenger hunt. This hilarious entertainment leads to interactive discussions about real wolf behavior and their elusive mannerism. Locals use their map reading skills to locate the five counties of Dare, Hyde, Washington, Beaufort, and Tyrell where approximately 100 wild red wolves roam freely.  Using the discovery trunk supplied by the Red Wolf Coalition, pelts, skulls, tracks, and radio collars help to teach about the daily life of the wolf.   The audience is enthralled to learn how this this top predator helps to maintain the balance and health of ecosystems.

Yes, the song Country Roads by John Denver and The Song of the South by Alabama are also popular tunes along the eastern shore.  But if left up to Gail and Marilyn, all citizens living in the state will know more about the real stars of the south, the red wolf!


Their dedication to educating the public about the wolf has inspired them to write their first book, Running for Home.  Even though they are still seeking publication, their vision for writing the book is to change culture through education, one heart at a time. The book is filled with informative facts about the life of the gray wolf and its daily challenges. It was written to educate the public about the plight of the gray wolf and to show its positive impact on the environment.  The reader will fall in love with three main characters, a black wolf, an elk and a very funny raven as their lives intertwine with naturally occurring events. In each chapter, the reader will discover clues which will reveal a mystery animal that has been impacted by the wolf’s return. Readers of all ages will enjoy finding the animal hidden in the illustrations.

Gail McDiarmid currently resides in Cleveland, South Carolina with her six rescued dogs and three cats.  She works in the Sociology department at Furman University.

Marilyn McGee resides in Tobaccoville, North Carolina with her husband and three rescued dogs.  She is an elementary teacher in Stokes County. 


Follow their progress on face book as they seek publication to change culture through education, one heart at time.



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